“The Lobster (2015)” Review

After a Muppet interlude, a very different dystopia… 

Why did I watch it?

This is one of those (late, lamented) Lovefilm surprises where, by the time it pops through the letterbox, I can’t remember why it’s on the list. Usually someone in a pub recommended it to me; but it could be because it’s got Rachel Weisz in it.

Did it meet expectations?

Because I didn’t know much about it I didn’t really have any expectations, but, if this film does one thing – repeatedly – it is confound your expectations. If you think you know which way a scene is going… Even sentences rarely went the way I expected.

I guess this is science fiction, technically. Or social science fiction? In the (near) future those who find themselves single are sent to a hotel with 45 days to find a match – after which they are turned into an animal of their choice, though in the regular hunt they can earn extra days by bagging themselves rogue singletons.

The quiet alienation of this high-pressure dating is conveyed through stilted performances and blunt dialogue. The voice-over is flat, almost monotone. But the observations are delicious and writing often exquisite and frequently outrageous.

Colin Farrell, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything previously, is a solid presence as the subdued and bewildered protagonist. I was pleased to recognise some favourite actors: the voice over is Weisz, Olivia Coleman runs the hotel, Ben Wishaw is another patron. Later in the movie, Lea Sedoux (Spectre) makes an appearance.

There’s a shift midway through, from the sharp satire on dating and (from my too-single perspective) some well deserved jibes at the institutionalised advantages offered to couples, towards a more serious and absorbing questioning of love and individualism.

The whole film, despite its absurdity and playful narrative, is absolutely beautifully lit and beautifully shot. It’s funny and odd and engaging, even if it seems to lose interest in some of its narrative threads before they’re fully paid off.

Incidentally, I realise that none of the films I’ve watched have passed the Bechdel Test. I thought this one had at one point, but I checked and was mistaken. Given the nature of this story it is not surprising it doesn’t pass; it is, however, rather surprising that out of six (fairly random, fairly recent) films none of them exceeded this low bar.

You should watch it if…

  • You’ve wondered about what you lose when you enter a relationship with someone.
  • You’ve wondered about what you lose when you remain single.

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You don’t enjoy the absurd.

Next up: Under the Skin (2014)

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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